tv Washington Week PBS September 7, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm PDT
gwen: we are back from the conventions. and boy, do we have a lot to catch up on. and we will. tonight, on "washington week." >> now you have a choice. you can choose that future. you have a choice. this is the choice we now face. gwen: forget the ads, distractions, even the balloons and confetti and celebrity. with 60 days until election day, the real mitt romney-barack obama faceoff has pea gun. >> -- has begun. >> if mitt was santa claus he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves. gwen: this week, it was the democrats' turn to stir up the troops. >> i have seen first hand that being president doesn't change who you are. no, it reveals who you are. >> it's time for democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe.
gwen: and as the economy coughed out another disappointing jobs report, the republicans are ready to strike back. >> there's almost nothing the president has done in the last 3 1/2, four years that gives the american people confidence he knows what what he's doing when it comes to jobs and the economy. gwen: the stage is set for the beg fall fight. we're back from charlotte with peter baker of "the new york times." dan balz of "the washington post." jeanne cummings of bloomberg news. and michael duffy of "time" magazine. >> award-whipping reporting and analysis. -- award-winning reporting and analysis. live from our nation's capital this is "washington week with gwen ifill." produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by --
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financial. and american queens steamboat company. proud to support "washington week" on pbs. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. just for you, we all stayed up a little too late last night. and every night for the last two weeks. and just for you, we'll spend the next half-hour explaining why. explaining bill clinton's role in the democratic party. >> if you want a winner take all, you're on your own society, you should support the republican ticket. but if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, we're all in this together society, you should vote for barack obama and joe biden.
gwen: deconstructing how the parties' rising stars are being used to attack the republican ticket. >> we know that in four free market economy, some will prosper more than others. what we don't accept is the idea that some folks won't even get a chance and the thing is, mitt romney and the republican party are perfectly comfortable with that america. gwen: and ultimately assessing the democratic nominee. who came to charlotte to sell himself as well as to take a piece out of his republican opponent. >> they want your vote. but they don't want you to know their plan. and that's because all they had to offer is the same prescriptions they've had for the last 30 years. have a surplus, try a tax cut. deficit too high, try another. feel a cold coming on, take two
tax cuts, roll back some regulations and call us in the morning. gwen: today, he turned that into not falling in love, tax cuts. and he's loving that riff. but dan, four years later, the president, did he accomplish what he set out to do? he actually said four years of that, a much different man. and now he's the president. >> well, he's a much different man. the country is in a much different place. and he's in a much different race than he was four years ago. and this race could still go either way. i think they got a lot done at the convention. the early nights were very strong. there was -- michelle obamaways -- michelle obama's speech went out well in the hall and outside as well. president obama was nolt quite the president obama that many thought he might be. the rhetoric was not soaring. but in many ways, the speech was similar to what he did in 2008. it talked about what he wants
to do in the future. but most it was i want to frame this choice in a way that's most helpful to me and most damaging to governor romney. and i think that while the speech didn't get great reviews, the people i talked to today about it think that he did what he needed to do in terms of reaching specific audiences with specific messages. gwen: i went through the speech while he was delivering it last night, peter, and counted i think 19 times he used that formulation "choice" or "choose." he likes that, doesn't he? >> it's become the mantra of this year. and looking at this speech versus the one four years ago when he used the word "promise" 40 times and this this is -- that was the time of promise this is a franchise and a choice of two as he sees it two radically different philosophies and that's as dan saying he set out to do here. he doesn't want it to be about how have we succeeded but worse if the other guy takes over. gwen: the interesting thing and we were all at both
conventions, romney, even though he's embracing this notion that this is a choice, not a referendum, he only used that formulation a handful of times. and it seemed like both -- either party had different goals they were trying to accomplish. >> well, the democrats of course had the advantage of going second. and so they could find soft spots in the republican message. and they tried to exploit them. gwen: not supporting the troops -- >> not supporting the troops and not focusing on jobs. if you look at the republican convention messaging, a lot of it was what's wrong with barack obama and not much prescription for what they would do. and they talked about jobs. but it was in terms of the failure of the administration more than anything else. when you get to the democratic convention, it's a very specific response. and that was one of the things that was really striking about president clinton's address in particular.
where he counted up the number of jobs under democratic administrations versus republican administrations. when he compared the auto jobs saved versus the failure of the republican congress to pass a jobs bill. very specific response on the issue that voters care about most. and that was the advantage of being second. gwen: the obama campaign people told me and probably told all of you as well that their goal for every night of the convention was different. the first night they needed someone to attest to his character and needed bill clinton to attest to his competence. and then in the end barack obama talking about the future. let's take them apart. michelle obama was clearly the chief person to testify. and joe biden ultimately about his character. >> very personal kind of commentary. even for michelle biden -- michelle obama -- gwen: a long week. >> first of many here tonight. biden was very good, too. >> i should stop now. this is a person who always gives good speeches.
but i rarely heard her give one -- these speeches always have some passion. this had an authentic emotion that we normally don't see and power from a first lady i don't ever recall. that really made that night i think -- gwen: and needing to mention mitt romney by name. >> it's so funny. she was very deft. and these are -- these speeches are well rehearsed and practiced dozens and dozens of times. but she made it look -- seem utterly spontaneous. so the first night, we haven't seen one like that in a very long time. gwen: go ahead. >> when it came to michelle obama's speech, i was talking with one of the democratic planners and strategists for all this. and they had a subtle message in that. that this little -- a little too subtle for me when i first heard it. but i was struck by how often she said "i still love my husband." like why did she have to
reinforce that? and troubled times that she needed to tell us about? what they were trying to do was trying to remind the viewers in the base, the guy you fell in love with four years ago is still the same guy today. >> a congressman from virginia who lost in 2010 after voting for health care, he used an interesting phrase about liberals and their disappointment with obama. he says that in any relationship, there's passion and great heat at first and it settles into a relationship of trust and dependence and we're moving into that with president obama. in his view. that's obviously maybe wishful thinking but that's where the democrats would like to be. >> what i was struck by on the first night the energy in the hall compared to what we had seen in tampa the first night. i remember being on the floor in florida the first night, and the aisles were wide open and pretty empty and people were talking through the early evening speakers. and you just did not have a
sense and it surprised me because we know that there's great energy within the republican party to defeat president obama. but it didn't seem evident in tampa. the first night in charlotte, it was totally different. that hall was alive. they had all the signs for every speaker in the audience was very much engaged with the speaker. gwen: part of that was stagecraft. it was a smaller arena which was -- i think it's a smaller -- smallest basketball arena in the league and the way it was set up was length wise instead of -- it doesn't matter. but it felt tighter and smaller and more intimate as a result. i was in the hall that first night early on. and i heard people rehearsing prior to ready to go and it wasn't going anywhere. and this is not good. but by the time the red light clicked on, they clicked on. >> part of that from the hunker down sense you got in tampa because of the storm. and not that they didn't want to look jubilant, while somebody else was getting slammed by a hurricane although that's part of it, also in
tampa, the first couple of days, those of us who were in didn't know what was going to happen. and so i think that might have had -- not to be funny but dampen some of that enthusiasm in those first couple of days. gwen: let's talk about the testimony to president obama's competence. one of the recurring themes at the republican convention was he's a nice guy and not capable and joe biden talking about his spine of steel and talking about the things that he did. but also we heard john kerry who was the party's 2004 nominee come out and testify to president obama's foreign policy, national security and among other things, he had this to say. >> ask osama bin laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago. gwen: that was part of an entire rift. and we heard osama bin laden's name a lot. but it meant something coming from john kerry. >> again, the level of oratory
by good convention standards was higher than a lot of people expected. and tied in with the kerry foreign policy was another thing i didn't expect related in this area at this convention. typically democrats have had a hard time through the 1970's and the 1980's and 1990's talking not just about foreign policy but about the military. and in this convention, night after night, hour after hour, it would have been easy to assume that this -- the democratic party had long been the party of military families, veterans, and -- gwen: lots of chants of u.s.a. u.s.a. >> i would have loved to have seen a script earlier and how much was put in the last minute as a reaction to the republicans. gwen: they say they did not change what they planned to do. >> but i have to say when president obama and his people criticized mitt romney for not talking very much about the wars, he doesn't talk very much about the wars. the truth is he throws it in from time to time. he does the appropriate trips to bases and so forth. but never been animating part of his public conversation.
he does the speeches. he has to do. but you wouldn't know by listening to him on the campaign trail that we're at war with 08,000 people. >> and not that i expected that he would do it thursday night. and that is acknowledge in some way or another that many people think that the things he has done haven't worked. he says my road is hard. things -- it will take time. but he never kind of addresses the question that a lot of people have which is what do you really think went wrong? why did the policies you put in place not quite work fast enough? gwen: and when the jobs numbers come out today showing bad news, not good news anyway, that question still remains unanswered. >> when he does talk about his shortcomings he talks about them in the context only of himself. i'm driven to my knees and i'm aware of my error. but a conversation he has with himself. not with the voters. >> and as he presents it a matter of communication. he doesn't explain it well enough. which is of course ironic for
the great communicator that we all took him to be. the first refuge of any politician in trouble. if you only understood what i was doing better you would of course approve of it. and sometimes it's a facts on the ground problem. gwen: and the interesting part of this convention is he had to make this case first and foremost to his own people. this was a very base convention. a lot of time, especially in the early parts of the night, talking only to their people. it was a big piece of business for democrats in charlotte. reminding each other why they got so excited four years ago. listen to these convention speakers. a former governor and a member of congress. >> president obama, with the auto rescue, you know, he saved more than one million american jocks in pennsylvania! -- jobs in pennsylvania. 34,000 jobs in florida. 35,000 jobs in ohio. 150,000 jobs, and in the great
state of michigan, 211,000 good-paying american jobs. all across america, manufacturing is rebounding. >> yes, mr. president, hope on. continue to hope, mr. president. no matter what, mr. president, you keep on hoping. when everything is gone, you continue to hope. as long as the god of abraham, isaac, and jacob sits on the throne of grace, plment, hope on! hope on! hope on! gwen: there's a lot of excitement in the hall after those speeches. but it's one thing to whip up the crowd in the hall. it's another thing to reach beyond. any evidence that that kind of excitement left the hall? >> i think what we -- where we saw the greatest outreach once again was clinton.
and if you go back to the beginning of his speech, he has this whole riff about how bipartisan his life was, has become, and then what struck me is we had love on the first night, and we get hate on the next night. they hate us. we don't hate them. he's talking about the dominant faction in the republican party. all of that aimed at independents. and then you had a lot of messaging toward women. but can i just say one quick thing on jennifer granholm? i have watched that thing five times on youtube. it never seeses to amaze me -- ceases to amaze me. it was such an amazing performance. and she had that place rocking. gwen: and i've never seen that side of her. >> and this love-hate thing was interesting theme through all the evenings when bill clinton conducting his master class, and that's what it was on wednesday night. talked about the politics of constant conflict. and he was basically saying the other side wants to hate.
and wants to stop and hate. we want to build and love was the first line of clinton -- of obama's speech. i love you, michelle. and -- one more thing. and again, they are -- they are betting here, and this is beyond the hall, that a certain group of voters simply is tired of partisan warfare. gwen: right. >> but what's striking in us who covered bill clinton, only he could get away with giving a speech that's relentless and brutal pounding. partisan pounding of the other party. and come out looking like he's bipartisan. and he -- gwen: a couple of arkansas lines and it seem like very folksy. >> you would think listening to him the 1990's was the halcyon era of cooperation. >> don't quite remember it that way. >> and listening to the reactions that these democrats, that's obama democrats have always loved bill clinton which is also not so. >> bill clinton more nice things to say about george w. bush in his one-hour in charlotte than all of the republicans had to say in a week in tampa.
>> there is a part of the electorate, it's people who call themselves independents and are genuinely independently, who don't like the warfare in washington. and if you can reach to them with that message and you talk to a different audience with the rest of what bill clinton was doing -- >> be partisan but look like you're bipartisan. gwen: and jeanne's point about gender. one thing that struck me, and both parties were quite of nakedly playing to the women's vote. but it's so clear that the democrats are trying to get married women. because every woman from nancy pelosi to michelle obama, introduced herself as a mom. i'm the mom in chief. and nancy ploss i never said i was the -- pelosi never said i was the first woman house speaker, i'm a mother and grandmother. >> and a harvard law graduate -- >> they got single women. >> right. >> married moms moved. in 2008, barack obama won moms
with -- married moms with children. and in 2010, they lost them badly to the republicans. so it's definitely viewed as a subset that is in swing. and when we have dug through the exit polls, they are in fact slightly different than suburban independents. baubs at first i thought, well -- because at first i thought, well, that's all part and parcel but they're different. and they also are very different than say the moms of the -- the year of the mom. the year of the woman, 1992. they're more educated. they make more money. they've had very different lives living outside, work outside of the home. so these married moms are pretty unique subset. gwen: and then of course both parties seem to be making a big pitch for the latino vote. even though the polls seem to show the democrats have a huge edge. >> i was struck by how fully this democratic party as opposed to previous years had embraced diversity. hispanics, women, gays.
at the same time, the politics of identity are still very strong in this party. which is also limits to some extent their ability to move forward on a lot of the issues, how to cut, what to go without that they're going to face if he wins. gwen: and one big stumbling the politics of identity when it came to that platform position on jerusalem. i was in the hall when that happened. and the chairman of the convention had to take the vote three times. because the no's were winning. >> they won all three times. >> they won all three times. gwen: they did win. >> it was astonishing that that slipped through the platform. and for a convention that was in all other ways very well scripted, that piece of it, those were things -- those were things that just should never have happened. >> in the 2008 platform. and -- >> why would you look next to each other in 2008 and 2012 platforms and see what's changed and make sure you aren't setting up an obvious
thing. gwen: go ahead. >> one of the speakers we haven't talked about is speaking of identity, going after a particular group, was the keynoter. gwen: he was going to ask you about that. the optics of the keynote. julian castro to chris christie, keynoter in tampa, the governor of new jersey. couldn't have been more different. >> well, they had very different roles. they were still each of them, though, had a target audience. and chris christie with the white working class voters. and of course the san antonio mayor, latino minority voters. and young voters. and so they both were shooting for a target. and christie's case, his speech read better than it was delivered. and in the case of san antonio mayor, wow, that was sort of like an obama 2004 moment. he really knocked that thing out of the park. a very good speech. >> there was another important difference in those two speeches also. and that was that christie did not prosecute the case against
the president. gwen: no. >> mayor castro prosecuted very hard the case against mitt romney. and in that sense, that's partly the traditional role of the keynoter. and obviously the layout of some themes as christie did. christie tried to say this is a big election. we have to have big choices. but he did not consistently or regularly go after either president obama's record or his leadership style. >> and when he barely mentioned romney. >> barely mentioned romney. gwen: go ahead. >> i was going to say one other thing that was striking about -- i thought to me, the -- you can imagine from in convention that there aren't 50 states. that there are only seven and three of them are ohio. a number of times we saw a married mom from ohio take the stage or a married mom in the military. it was -- the precision targeting of their symbolism was -- could not have been
planned in the last week. it was simply too precise. and so again, if -- big themes but very clear targeting on owners they need. gwen: and actually, we're going to have to finish this up in the webcast. because it's -- we've just started because now we have to see what happens when they leave these conventions and they follow through on that kind of precision if that's what it indeed was. thank you, everybody. we are going to catch up on a little lost sleep but only after we finish our conversation online. in the "washington week" webcast extra. be sure to check out what everybody else has to say. we'll be keeping track of the candidates all fall. and you can, too, with "washington week" essential reads. find links to our panelists' work at pbs.org/washingtonweek and we have to acknowledge a milestone. the great dan balz here, published his 1,500th page one story in "the washington post" today. it's a record that all of us are too tired to consider
duplicating. but congratulations, dan. also happy birthday to mr. duffy. what better way to spend it than with us. keep up with daily developments on the pbs news however and we'll sum it -- pbs newshour and we'll sum it up here. good night. >> funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> this rock has never stood still. since 1875, we've been there for our clients through good times and bad. when their needs changed, we were there to meet them. through the years, from insurance to investment management, from real estate to retirement solutions, we've developed new ideas for the financial challenges ahead.
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